When Chef's Away, Who Sautés?

Photo by Keller + Keller

Photo by Keller + Keller

For local chef/owners, branching out from one restaurant to several is a mark of success. But while seemingly empire-minded chefs (e.g. Todd English, Ken Oringer, Barbara Lynch) make opening a 3rd, 4th, or even 10th venture look easy, the transition from chef to multi-restaurant owner requires lots of careful planning. (It also helps if you know how to juggle.)

When Krista Kranyak, owner of Ten Tables in Jamaica Plain, opened a second Ten Tables in Cambridge this past February, she was constantly shuttling between the two locations. Her survival strategy? Rely heavily on general managers Sean Callahan in Cambridge and Stan Hilbert in JP. “I have the vision of what I want to create, and I hire the right people to oversee that vision,” she says.

Now, with both restaurants serving dinner seven nights a week, Kranyak says she tries to give equal attention to each, spending about five days a week in Jamaica Plain “monitoring menu production, service details, and basically overseeing the entire operation.” In Cambridge, she explains, her role is more like a front-of-house general manager, because co-proprietor David Punch presides over the kitchen. Longtime partners work best in multi-location ventures, says Kranyak, because there’s an established sense of trust.

Paul O’Connell, executive chef/owner of Chez Henri in Cambridge, agrees. When he left Cambridge to open the Chilmark Tavern on Martha’s Vineyard—with only a month and a half to prepare—he relied heavily on his employees. “[I] originally planned to leave the cooking duties at Chez Henri in the hands of chef de cuisine Mark Thompson,” O’Connell says. After realizing the enormity of the task ahead, he recruited Thompson to join him on the Vineyard and placed chef Brian Rebello, who had recently joined the staff at Chez Henri, into a more managerial role there.

One down side to running more than one restaurant, admits O’Connell, is that he worked harder than he has in years, traveling back and forth between the island and the mainland every couple of days. Still, knowing he could depend on “Chef B” and general manager Beth Sprouse to run Chez Henri, he felt comfortable being away on his so-called “excellent adventure.” And while some chefs thrive on the madness of running multiples, he’s happy to be a one-restaurant guy once again—for the winter, at least. – Abby Bielagus